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UN discourages renewal of Indian military aid to Nepal

world Updated: Jul 24, 2009 16:33 IST
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Amidst the growing controversy over the resumption of Indian military assistance to Nepal, the UN Friday said such a gesture would violate the peace pact between the former Maoist guerrillas and ruling parties that ended a decade of violence in the Himalayan nation.

The row was triggered Tuesday when Nepal's Defence Minister Vidya Bhandari met her Indian counterpart AK Antony in New Delhi during her week-long visit to the neighbouring country, when she reportedly asked India to resume the military assistance and training it had suspended four years ago.

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), the UN's political mission that has been supervising the arms and combatants of the Maoists since the signing of the peace agreement in 2006, said it "strongly discourages any activities, either by the Nepal Army or the Maoist Army that may be constituted as a violation of Article 5.3 of the Agreement on Monitoring the Management of Arms and Armies".

The article, which details the possible steps that can be construed as a violation of the peace pact, include recruitment of soldiers and replenishment of military equipment.

On Thursday, when UNMIN chief Karin Landgren held a press conference in New York to announce that her organisation had been granted a six-month extension by the UN Security Council, she was asked about the UN stand on the possible resumption of arms sale to the Nepal Army by India.

Landgren was reported as saying that an arms sale would contravene the pact.

UNMIN spokesman Kosmos Viswokarma said that before Bhandari left for India, she had a regular meeting with Landgren during which the UNMIN chief had expressed concern about the government violating the peace pact.

UNMIN has also been concerned about the promotion of a senior army officer.

"Recruiting or buying weapons or upgradation of any kind by either the Nepal Army or the Maoists without the issue being discussed by the high-level monitoring committee is a violation of the pact," Viswokarma said.

"The possible resumption of Indian military assistance has not been discussed in the monitoring committee."

The Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee comprises representatives from the army, Maoists and UNMIN.

The Maoists have already registered their anger with their chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda warning the new government of Nepal that any fresh arms deal with India would derail the peace process.

India had been providing the Nepal Army with its indigenously manufactured Insas firearms at a 70 per cent subsidy to fight the growing Maoist insurgency.

However, it suspended the assistance in February 2005 to show its disapproval over King Gyanendra's decision to stage an army-backed coup and seize absolute power.

Military experts in Nepal are saying that if India wants to help Nepal, then instead of handing out weapons it should provide medicines to fight the raging diarrhoea epidemic in western Nepal that has killed almost 200 people.